updated 5/20/2005 7:59:33 PM ET 2005-05-20T23:59:33

A jury on Friday ordered a prepaid cellular phone service company and four wireless carriers to pay $128 million in damages to a firm that patented technology and systems to provide prepaid service.

After a 12-week trial and four days of deliberations, a U.S. District Court jury ruled in favor of Phoenix-based Freedom Wireless Inc., which began patenting technology in 1994 developed by inventors Douglas Fougnies and Dan Harned.

Boston Communications Group Inc. was found liable in all the damages total because the jury found it used the patented technologies in providing prepaid services that carriers offered their customers.

The carriers — Cingular Wireless, AT&T Wireless, CMT Partners and Western Wireless — were found liable for smaller amounts based on the durations of time their customers were using technology and systems for which Freedom Wireless held patents.

Cingular recently acquired AT&T Wireless, and CMT Partners and Wireless are both affiliated with Cellular One.

Attorneys for the defendants did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment, but Bill Price, lead counsel for the plaintiff, said he expected appeals.

Verizon Wireless was originally among the defendants named in a lawsuit that Freedom Wireless filed five years ago. But that wireless carrier and some of its affiliated companies were removed as defendants before the case went to trial in February as a result of a confidential settlement, Price said.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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